BETWEEN THE BOOKENDS

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John Deere tractors

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Check out this sleigh-load of great reads

If those near and dear to you describe you as 'hard to shop for,' give them a hand this holiday season. Santa's bag is packed with several super new books, any one of which would be a prize for an old iron enthusiast. All you have to do is find a red pen, circle a few titles and leave the magazine out in plain sight, strategically open to these pages. Leave the rest to the elves!

Johnny Popper fan? Put John Deere: A History of the Tractor on your holiday list. But you'd better hope Santa tucks this gift under the tree and not in your stocking, because the sheer heft of this book could pull the mantle off the fireplace.

Written by Randy Leffingwell, and packed with more than 300 very fine Leffingwell photographs (and Deere archival images) of restored and original John Deere tractors, this book traces tractor development at Deere & Company from 1912 to present day. Leffingwell's book differs from similar efforts in that he shares the voice of longtime Deere & Company engineer Theo Brown in telling the tale. Brown, director of Deere's Plow Works experimental division from 1916 to 1952, was on the front line of nearly every major campaign at Deere during a period of stunning technological evolution. Brown's journal entries and drawings, reproduced extensively throughout the book, recreate the tone of that era in a fresh, new way.

John Deere: A History of the Tractor touches on the roots of the Waterloo Boy, the challenge to Ford, development of the mechanical cultivator, the GP Bean tractor and the John Deere Lindeman, as well as the arrival of pneumatic tires for tractors and the impact of the Great Depression. The book recounts the influence of Henry Dreyfuss on industrial design, the William Hewitt years, and the company's growing emphasis on safety. Leffingwell tells a familiar tale, but this version takes plenty of interesting twists and turns, and will interest everyone from the novice to the seasoned collector.

John Deere: A History of the Tractor, by Randy Leffingwell, published in 2004 by Motor books International, ISBN 0-7603-1861-1, 384 pages, hardback.

If you're interested in antique farm equipment, the Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques is a must for your library. Now in its second edition, the Encyclopedia has been updated since it was first published in 1997. Assembled as a labor of love by noted authority C.H. Wendel, the book covers everything from A to zed in comprehensive fashion.

The Encyclopedia is a gem on several counts. If, for instance, you've acquired an old sawmill, feed grinder or harrow and you're looking for information, you won't find many (if any) resources on such topics. But obscure topics are the specialty of this book.

Alternatively, you may have a fair amount of information about the antique cultivator in your collection, but you may wonder how it fits into the big picture of all horse-drawn cultivators: Timelines, other manufacturers and innovations. Wendel's Encyclopedia answers those kinds of questions.

Or perhaps you're just intrigued by all antique farm equipment. If you have an affection for old iron, it's easy to get lost in the Encyclopedia, wandering from topic to topic. Lavishly illustrated (more than 2,500 images on nearly 500 pages) with beautifully-detailed vintage commercial art, the Encyclopedia is a fine resource for collectors and restorers. A full-color center section showcases a fine selection of promotional pieces, and a chapter on trademarks adds yet another dimension to the story. A must-have for any collector's library.

Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques, by C.H. Wendel, published in 2004 by Krause Publications, ISBN 0-87349-568-3, 496 pages, paperback.

First released in 1954 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Agricultural Tractor 1855-1950 remains a fine resource for the antique tractor enthusiast. Though less flashy than many current texts tracing the history of farm tractors in America, The Agricultural Tractor is packed with solid, interesting information presented in a concise format.

The book is divided into two sections: The first, covering the period 1855 to 1919, lays the groundwork for the evolution of the farm tractor. The second portion, 1920 to 1950, focuses on the first big boom in tractor production, highlighting each year's new developments. The narrative is constructed in a logical, chronological manner, starting with the construction of an atmospheric engine in 1705. A comprehensive discussion of steam engines follows, complete with handsome illustrations from manufacturers' promotional materials, and then you're off and running. Diagrams and charts track technological evolutions and test results, and you'll particularly enjoy sections detailing a variety of early mechanical systems.

You can't always tell a book by its cover. The Agricultural Tractor 1855-1950 won't win any beauty contests, but it offers plenty of substance, and would be a useful addition to any tractor collector's reference library.

The Agricultural Tractor 1855-1950, compiled by R.B. Gray, published in 2004 by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 156 pages, paperback.

Need replacement parts but having trouble getting them made? A two-volume set by Stephen Chastain will help you eliminate the middle man by learning to cast your own replacement parts, pistons, cylinder heads and more.

Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual for the Small Foundry offers simple techniques and lists readily available materials (sand, molasses and wheat paste) to help you produce your own sand mold. With text written in easy-to-under-stand, non-technical language, even the novice will soon be capable of high-quality castings.

In Volume 1, you'll learn how to build a 2, 450-degree (Fahrenheit) furnace from a steel bucket, how to make your own foundry tools and equipment, the different types of sand molds, the effect of sand grain types and distribution, the surface area of various sands, the effect of core boxes, baking and buoyancy in various molten metals, tips for core filing and setting jigs, and how to build a thermocouple to measure high temperatures.

Volume 2 delves into copper alloys, aluminum and cast iron; solidification of metals; how to design gates and risers for castings, the use of chills, insulated pads and riser sleeves, pattern making, rubber molds and match plates; casting of pistons and cylinder heads; and production of the original flathead V8's castings.

Chastain melds his training as a mechanical and materials engineer with a great talent for instruction. Carefully developed graphs, drawings and photographs are used extensively through both volumes and eliminate any confusion for the beginner. He'll take you from zero to 60, but be patient.

'Reading a book about metal casting does not make you an expert caster any more than reading a book about piano playing makes you a virtuoso pianist,' Chastain notes in the introduction to Volume 1. 'It takes practice. You will not learn metal casting in a few days.'

Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual for the Small Foundry, Volume 1 and Volume 2, written, illustrated and published by Stephen D. Chastain. Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual for the Small Foundry, Volume 1, published 2004; ISBN 0-9702203-2-4, 208 pages, paperback. Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual for the Small Foundry, Volume 2, published 2004; ISBN 0-9702203-3-2, 192 pages, paperback.

More metal craft wizardry by the expert, Stephen Chastain: Making Pistons for Experimental and Restoration Engines sets the antique equipment restorer on his way to handcrafted replacement pistons and rings. As the author notes, 'You are no longer limited by the price and availability of replacement pistons and rings when you can make your own.

It's a slim volume, but comprehensively addresses the subject. Look for tips on how to design new pistons, how to design for heat flow, proper ring lands for high loads and temperatures, pattern making, casting pistons in sand molds and making piston rings.

The book is the fifth in Chastain's highly popular and effective Small Foundry Series. It's packed with illustrations and photographs to lead the amateur through the process, but the experienced metal worker will also find plenty of substance here.

Making Pistons for Experimental and Restoration Engines, written, illustrated and published by Stephen D. Chastain, ISBN 0-9702203-4-0, 64 pages, paperback.

And just for fun ... if you enjoy the cartoons by Bob Artley that run in each issue of Farm Collector and have an affinity for dairy cattle, you'll pop a smile at a re-release of an Artley book, Bob Artley's Cowtoons: Living with Cows.

'For as long as I can remember, cows and I were involved in a love-hate relationship that has had a lasting effect on me,' the author/cartoonist writes in his preface. 'To this day, the warm, friendly smell of a cow barn or cattle shed evokes in me nostalgia for a time and place where cows were very much a part of my growing-up years on our family farm.'

Artley clearly has extensive personal experience with the subject of the book. It is divided into four chapters immediately recognizable to anyone who's worked with cattle: 'Mud,' 'Flies,' 'Corn' and 'Cold Hands.' The cartoons (originally published in his newspaper cartoon series) are warm, nostalgic glimpses into another era, complete with the author's recollections.

Artley grew up on a farm in Iowa, and went on to a career as an editorial cartoonist, publisher and printer. His syndicated cartoon series, 'Memories of a Former Kid,' appears in newspapers throughout the country and presents just the right blend of whimsy, nostalgia and wisdom.

Bob Artley's Cowtoons: Living with Cows, written and illustrated by Bob Artley, published in 2004 by Voyageur Press, ISBN 0-89658-614-6, 96 pages, paperback.

For information on ordering these and other books, turn to page 48 in this issue.